Flay “delaying tactics” of Directorate of Sugars

Employees and workers of three cooperative sugar mills in Vellore district — Vellore Cooperative Sugar Mills, Ambur Cooperative Sugar Mills and Tirupattur Cooperative Sugar Mills — who are on an indefinite strike since April 4, staged a demonstration at the Fort Round Road here on Monday. It was aimed at drawing the attention of the government to their demands, and protesting against “delaying tactics” of the Directorate of Sugars in settling their demands. The demonstration was organised on behalf of all trade unions in all the three mills.

The employees and workers of 17 cooperative and public sector sugar mills in the State are on indefinite strike from April 4 demanding payment of salary and dearness allowance on a par with government servants as given to officers of cooperative and public sector sugar mills belonging to the common cadre.

V. Kumar, State president of the agricultural wing of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said that while a mason gets a wage of Rs.500 to Rs.600 a day, a worker or employee in a cooperative sugar mill gets a pay of only Rs.11,000 a month.

It was regrettable that the demands of sugar mills employees and workers have not been met for the last several years despite several representations and rounds of talks.

Representatives of various trade unions pointed out that it is discriminatory on the part of the government to have granted pay on a par with government servants to the common cadre officers of cooperative/public sector sugar mills, including the chief cane officers, electrical supervisors, manufacturing supervisors, shift engineers and chief engineers who constitute a minority in the mills, while paying a pittance to the large majority of the employees and workers.

Whenever the Union government announces a hike in dearness allowance and the State government announces the same hike, the hike is given effect to only to the common cadre staff of the cooperative and public sector mills, which is nothing short of discrimination, they said.

The main grouse of the striking employees and workers is that the government did not give any subsidy to cooperative/public sector sugar mills whenever the State government announces the State Advised Price for sugarcane, which is more than the Statutory Minimum Price fixed by the Union government. Sugar mills are forced to bear the extra amount announced by the State government.

But, the State government reimbursed the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board and the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation to offset the loss on account of the subsidy given to various categories of consumers. The government should apply the same yardstick to cooperative/public sector sugar mills and reimburse the extra amount paid to the farmers, they said.

Gunarajan and A.M. Natarajan of the Staff Federation of the Cooperative Sugar Mills in Vellore district said the sorry state of affairs of the employees and workers in the cooperative/public sector sugar mills was reflected in the fact that the last drawn gross salary of an employee who retires after 33 to 35 years of service is a meagre Rs.13,000 whereas the salary of common cadre staff range between Rs.40,000 and Rs.80,000 per month. They also alleged that correct information about pay structure of the staff of the cooperative/public sector sugar mills was not being projected by the Finance Department to the Chief Minister.

They want the Chief Minister to intervene immediately to settle the issue and bring to an end the Statewide strike which entered its 13th day on Monday.